Born with Cerebral Palsy, He Found His Identity on the Lacrosse Field

This article appears in the Midwest version of our November edition. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

As a freshman lacrosse player at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, Brock Spayd attended a showing of “Woodlawn,” the movie about a football team at a desegregated high school in Birmingham, Ala., set in 1973. The coaches asked everyone to bring their helmets and to tape one word across the back with which they identified.

Spayd inked his in all caps.


Spayd was born with periventricular leukomalacia, a form of cerebral palsy. He has been in occupational therapy ever since he could walk. At age 6, he underwent surgery to cut his right femur in half and rotate it 45 degrees to lengthen the tendons in his hamstrings. Doctors said he would never play sports.

But after two more surgeries to elongate those tendons, at ages 12 and 15, Spayd grew to a sturdy 6-foot-1 and 130 pounds.

Spayd struggled with his physical limitations. When he was younger, kids would ask why he walked and ran differently. In second grade, his insecurity, mixed with his quick wit, prompted a call home from his teacher after he told his class he was bitten by a shark.

His self-doubt disappeared on the lacrosse field.

“That refuge with a team that was willing to accept him for all of his strengths and weaknesses is something that I am forever grateful for,” said Angela Spayd, Brock’s mother. “Lacrosse is so important to our hearts. That’s where he found himself.”

Spayd spent a half-hour every day with trainers, stretching and icing him before practices and games.He had constant knee pain. As a sophomore, he fractured a vertebra in his spine after colliding with another player. He chose a new word for his helmet.


Ronocalli coach Sean Cross saw Spayd’s resolve when he removed him from a drill out of caution.

“They had to run the basketball court 11 times in 70 seconds. Brock looked like he was struggling a bit, so I pulled him out,” Cross said. “He looked me in the eye, and he said, ‘Coach, you never ever take me out unless I say I need to come out.’ That line of communication was open from that day forward.”


Spayd had a new word for his last two years at Roncallii. He would often joke with Cross about scoring his first goal. “I’m gonna get you one today, Coach,” he’d say.

But before an April 9 game against Whiteland, Cross turned the tables on Spayd, now a senior.

 “You gonna get me one today?” he asked.

“Nope,” Spayd replied. “I’m gonna get you two.”

“Give me one,” Cross said, “and make it a good one.”

With less than a minute left, Cross pulled Spayd aside during a timeout.

“You’re going to get the ball,” he said. “You’re going to beat your man, and you’re going to score a goal.”

“His eyes lit up,” Cross said, recalling the conversation, “then closed in with determination.”

An assistant coach pulled out his phone. Something special was about to happen. Brock got the ball, cradled past his defender, stopped in front of the goal, shot and scored.

Coaches stormed the field with tear-filled eyes. They wanted to hug Spayd. But he wanted to find Hayden Fitzgerald, who set the pick that cleared the way.

“Hayden that was the right thing to do,” Spayd said. “That’s being a team player. I wouldn’t have scored that goal if you didn’t set that pick.”

Spayd asked that Fitzgerald get a game ball for his unselfish play. The honor went to Spayd. “It was finally his moment,” Angela Spayd said.

Now Spayd is in his first year at Purdue studying mechanical engineering.

“I started a little hashtag every time Brock did something the doctors said he couldn’t do,” Angela Spayd said. “We live by the hashtag #TakeThatCP. We’re rubbing it in cerebral palsy’s face.” 

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